4 Tips to Getting the Most Out of a Garden Consultation

4 Tips to Getting the Most Out of a Garden Consultation

Guest Author: Susan Mintun

It has happened to all of us at one time or another; do you recognize either (or both) of these scenarios? Scenario 1: Coffee in hand you wander out to your garden (yet again) and mosey around a bit. And, yet again, you determine that, yes, it needs something. It’s just not right. It’s not as attractive as it could be. Or the space doesn’t function as well as it might. Or it has a problem that seems impossible to solve. You are sure it has potential, but what to do? You sigh and head back inside for another doughnut because, yet again, you have not been struck with inspiration.

Exploring the amazing plant selection at the Scott Associates Plant Sale. photo credit: Scott Arboretum Archives

Scenario 2: Oh, you love plants! The colors! The textures! The satisfaction of growing something beautiful! The feel of dirt under your fingernails! You arrive at the plant sale with great anticipation and there, laid out before you, is a scintillating selection of the objects of your obsession. Oh, boy, it doesn’t get any better than this! But then as you shop questions start to form: I love the look of this plant, but I don’t really know much about it. How big will it get? How much sun does it need? Will it provide food for the birds or attract butterflies? Will it tolerate being trampled by the dog? Will it really look as good as it does in the photo?

Plant Expert Josh Coceano discusses the merits of our woody plant offerings at the Scott Associates Plant Sale. photo credit: D. Mattis

Thus you seek advice and consultation from fellow gardeners, professionals, and enthusiasts. Here are some pointers on how to get the most out of these conversations and interactions:

Getting the Most from Your Garden Consultation

  1. Be able to explain your site’s conditions: the size of the area you need help with, the amount of sun it receives, what the soil moisture is generally like, if it is flat or sloped, etc. These features are not always visible, but dramatically affect your garden.
  2. Identify your goals or concerns about how you would like the area to look and function. The garden must be functional as well as beautiful.
  3. Consider addressing just a portion of your property or have in mind a particular project you want to discuss. Don’t get overwhelmed and lose sight of your initial goal.
  4. If possible, show photos of landscapes and gardens you like and plants you want to add. The bigger the pictures, the more useful they will be. Simply presenting them in digital format works as well.


Savvy gardeners can take advantage of free garden consultations during the Scott Associates Plant Sale from landscape designers at the Design Studio and plant experts on the Plant Sale Field.

Landscape designers Jules Bruck and Harriet Henderson offering garden consultations during the Scott Associates Plant Sale. photo credit: J. Goren

Design Studio

On Saturday and Sunday experienced landscape professionals will be on hand to consult personally with you about the design of your garden. Their expertise is available just by signing up to meet with one of them in person! Each session is 30 minutes long and is free of charge. In order to get the most from your consultation you should come prepared with the items mentioned above and a site plan, even if it is just a rough sketch, indicating buildings, paved area and existing plants.

There are a limited number of sessions available! We strongly recommend that you reserve a time slot in advance by contacting the Scott Arboretum offices, 610-328-8025. For more information about the talented designers who will be available please see the Plant Sale handbook online.

Plant Expert Eve Thyrum shares a laugh with Jack Neigh. photo credit: D. Mattis

Plant Experts

These special volunteers and arboretum staff members have been recruited to answer all your questions as they arise. Each one is a knowledgeable and experienced gardener and all of them like nothing better than to talk about plants. You will find them roving about on all three days of the sale, eager to help you find the perfect plant for your garden, to help put together combinations of plants that will look and grow well together, or to educate you about the ones you have fallen in love with and can’t live without. These folks will be easy to find: they will be wearing red “Plant Expert” pinnies and friendly smiles.

Design Studio and Plant Experts both give you wonderful opportunities to get the advice you need. Be sure to take advantage of these great resources!

Guest Author
  • Dorothy Lee
    Posted at 16:02h, 28 August Reply

    Great article – great idea!

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